PopCult Rudy Panucci on Pop Culture

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scape-01“Scape Number Six”

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Hail To The King

Okay, there are few things cooler in this world than the creative legacy of Jack Kirby (1917-1994).

This is the guy who co-created Captain America in the 1940s, and gave the comic book world loads of memorable characters like The Newsboy Legion, The Vision, Sandman, The Challengers Of The Unknown, among other classics.

With his partner Joe Simon, he was responsible for the first horror and romance comics. Simon and Kirby split up in the 1950s, and on his own, Kirby was responsible for great work for DC, Marvel, and newspaper comics.

Kirby teamed with Stan Lee at Marvel Comics in the 1960s, and together, they created the Fantastic Four, and laid the groundwork for the Marvel Comics empire. When you see The X Men, The Fantastic Four, The Silver Surfer, The Hulk, and almost all the other Marvel heroes, you’re looking at Jack Kirby creations.

When he left Marvel to work for DC Comics, at an age when most cartoonists are contemplating retirement, he still had enough left in his tank to bring us classics like Kamandi, The New Gods, Mister Miracle, and Etrigan, the Demon.

Perhaps because he’s not the one whose uncle owned the company, Kirby gets a bit of a short shrift when it comes to things like putting his name on blockbuster movies based on his Marvel co-creations (Fantastic Four, Hulk, X Men), and his estate doesn’t even get paid royalties when Marvel reprints his classic work. Even when they do it in a coffee-table book called “Marvel Visionaries: Jack Kirby.”

DC treats Kirby better, but he’s responsible for so much of what makes up comic books today that he really deserves more acclaim.

So, it’s really cool that Kirby now has a museum dedicated to his work. It’s about time the guy got the credit he deserves. This is a guy who was creating memorable characters from the 1930s to the 1980s. Most of the modern-day universes of both Marvel and DC Comics are deeply-rooted in Kirby’s concepts and creations.

The museum is an online presence for now, with the stated goal of developing a traveling retrospective of Kirby’s work. Brought to life by Randolph Hoppe, Kirby’s daughter, Lisa, and John Morrow (publisher of JACK KIRBY COLLECTOR ,along with other great books and magazines that preserve comic book history), the Jack Kirby Museum is a long overdue honor for the man who almost single-handedly created the modern comic book. Check out the Kirby Museum here

It’s a good start when it comes to recognizing the plucky little Brooklynite, without whom we would not have two-thirds of today’s most recognizable comic book favorites. And think how cool it would be if the Avampato Museum at the Clay Center could sign on to host the traveling retrospective when it starts in 2007.

Beatles Cover Alert!

So, I’m a Beatle freak. The group stuff; the solo stuff; the guest appearances on other artist’s album–I eat that stuff up.

One thing I keep an eye out for is cover versions of Beatle songs–group or solo–the more obscure, the better. Well, we’ve got a pretty unusual one to listen to this time.

Eric Clapton, on his new album, “Back Home“, has covered a song from George Harrison’s self-titled 1979 album. Any Beatle fan knows that Harrison and Clapton are old buddies, even sharing an ex-wife between them. And Clapton has recorded several of Harrison’s songs over the years (Harrison even co-wrote the song “Badge” for Clapton’s group, Cream). Clapton was even the musical director for the Concert for George, held one year after his untimely passing.

So, it’s no shock that Clapton would cover a song by his old, fallen, comrade. “Love Comes To Everyone” is a nice mellow little tune that has aged pretty well. It’s one of those reassuring song about how cool love is. What’s interesting is that Clapton’s recording is slavishly faithful to the original version. With the exception of Clapton’s lead vocal and guitar solo, and some female backing vocals, this is almost a note-for-note recreation of Harrison’s recording. Clapton even brought in Steve Winwood, who played the synthesizer solo on Harrison’s album, to recreate his performance on what sounds like the same ’70s-vintage keyboard.

It’s not an Earth-shattering new version of the song, but it is a nice revival of a forgotten gem from the quiet Beatle.

Sketchy Bio

Since we’re going live with the Gazz, here’s a quick rundown of who I am, and what I’m doing here:

First, off, I’m Rudy Panucci.

Twenty years ago, along with my brother, Frank, I edited an independent comic book called “Coda.” It was the first nationally distributed comic book published here in West Virginia. I also wrote and drew the backup feature, “Spud.”

Fifteen years ago, I hosted “Radio Free Charleston, the greatest (local) radio show in the history of this city (that’s not really saying much). I played local artists, conceptual comedy bits, and any music that I felt like playing–I’m still proud of the time I segued from the Sex Pistols into Benny Goodman.

About thirteen years ago, I began co-writing “Animated Discussion” with Melanie Larch, which is still being published by the Charleston Gazette, whenever there’s animation to write about.

Ten years ago, I began writing about action figures for Toy Trader Magazine. When Toy Trader was bought up and shut-down by Toy Shop (we were eating away at their sales, so they assimilated us), I moved over to Mastercollector.com, which is also the parent company of the GI Joe Collector’s Club. My work can still be found there, covering topics like action figures, die-cast cars, and cheesy knockoffs. Action figures, especially GI Joe, are one of my main obsessions.

Nine years ago, I began writing for Non-Sport Update, the magazine devoted to non-sport trading cards–you know, the cool ones, like “Mars Attacks” and “Wacky Packages”. I’m still writing for them and can even be seen in their upcoming 15th anniversary issue trying to hide my baldness under a hat.

For the last eight years, I have been caring for my mother at home. She suffered a massive stroke, and rather than park her in a nursing home, I brought her home where she can be healthier and happier than she could have possibly been elsewhere. It’s been a bit of a challenge, and a crash course in medical procedures, but I don’t regret it. It has curtailed my social life, but I was getting lazy about going out before that anyway.

Earlier this year, I had a health scare. I’ve come out of it in better shape than I went in, but it has made me more aware of how important it is to pay attention to what you eat.

So, that’s about it. I may tee off on comic books, toys, movies, animation, health care, food, television, or anything else that strikes my fancy. I’ll also share some of the artwork, photography, and music that I’ve been working on these last few years. Maybe along the way I can reconnect with some of my old Radio Free Charleston co-conspirators.

Hope you enjoy the ride.

Monday Morning Art

Beach 01
“At the Beach”
Digitally manipulated photograph, 2003

Let’s Go Krogering

Kudos to Kroger

If you check out any of the recently-remodeled Kroger stores in our area, you’ll find an impressive new section of organic and avant-garde foodstuffs.

It’s nice be able to walk into a local store and find spelt flour, Organic soy milk, and all that other hippie-dippy crap that’s supposed to be good for you.

So hat’s off to Kroger for improving the quality of life in this area, just a little bit.

No more ordering in bulk off the internet.

Now if they’d only get Red Rock or Whoopee Cola, made with real cane sugar.

And Quisp. Sure would be nice to be able to buy Quisp locally again.

The Green Stuff

Okay, this is another Kroger find.

Earlier this year, I had a health scare that caused me to start eating like a responsible adult. As a result, I recently discovered that I actually like the taste of fresh spinach. I eat it without any dressing, just a dash of kosher salt and some fresh ground black pepper.

But I have a confession to make. The reason I found out that I enjoy this healthy food was soley because of the packaging. I bought it because it had Popeye on the bag.

Like the late legendary Charleston Gazetteer, James Dent, I am a huge fan of Popeye. I love the orginal comic strips by E. C. Segar. I love the stuff by his replacement, Bud Sagendorff. I even like the inferior comic books produced by George Wildman. And of course, to any animation fan, the Max Fleischer cartoons are like Beethoven. My fondness for the character extends to the point where I will pick up almost any product that has his picture on it.

So when I was strolling through the Kroger produce section one day a few weeks ago looking for salad, I found a bag of fresh spinach, washed and ready to eat, with Popeye on the package. I had to buy it, at least once.

Imagine my surprise when I developed a taste for the leafy green, and got hooked on it.

It turns out that Popeye brand fresh spinach is a Kroger’s exclusive. You can’t get it anywhere else.

I’ve tried other brands, but without the squint-eyed sailor man on the package, it somehow doesn’t taste as good.

Now, this is not to be confused with the canned Popeye spinach, which is available everywhere, and is really pretty nasty. This is the fresh stuff, sold in a bag in the produce section.

Grab some and season it up–it’s better than potato chips!

Seen at IWA–Danny Boyd

One of the really cool things about the IWA East Coast show was that I ran into my old buddy, Danny Boyd. I’ve known Danny for more than twenty years. In fact, I was one of his first film students at West Virginia State back in the long-ago 80s. Danny, of course, is the legendary local film maker of “Chillers”, “Strangest Dreams” and “Paradise Park”.

Danny was into wrestling long before I was, and even cast the great Dusty Rhodes in “Paradise Park”. So seeing him at a wrestling show was no shock.

I hadn’t seen Danny in years (I haven’t seen a lot of people in years), and seeing him reinforced my feeling that the IWA shows give off the modern-day version of the cool vibe I used to get at the Charleston Playhouse.

I almost expected to see Bob Gates sitting in the middle of all the mayhem, asleep, with a Black Label in his hand.

But anyway, Danny was at the show working on a top secret project. I can’t say anything about it, but you can decipher what you will right here

IWA photos

You can find some very cool photos from the September 6th IWA East Coast show at this blog,

Check it out and see what all the fuss is about.

Property Damage Guaranteed

IWA East Coast returned to the South Charleston Community Center September 6th with a killer show, “Property Damage Guaranteed”. Despite a couple of last-minute changes to the card, IWA treated their fans to their best show yet, loaded with plenty of intense wrestling action, and some huge surprises.

The show opened with the inebriated Luchadore, El Drunko, facing Spyder Nate Webb. This was a great opener, with lots of comedy and some impressive high-flying action. El Drunko was accompanied by his handlers, Crowza and Woody Numbers (who were all over the show) and even though he didn’t seem to be himself at times, he and Webb put on a very entertaining match that recalled the work of the legendary Detso Ritter. Webb was the victor, but both men shared a beer toast in the ring afterwards.

Next up was a women’s match, with Japanese wrestling star Sumie Sakai facing IWA’s Mickie Knuckles, who’s probably been in eight of the top ten women’s matches in this country so far this year. This was another great match, with Sakai playing to crowd, and both ladies getting cheers. After three German Suplexes, Mickie emerged victorious. This had better action than most men’s matches that you see on TV.

Ironton’s Trik Nasty took on the unstoppable monster Warpig next. This was a no-disqualification match. The action spilled out of the ring and into the stands, before Warpig won due to some interference from Warpig’s Mentor/handler/creator Dr. Max Graves. This lead to a challenge. At the next show, Trik Nasty will face both Warpig and Dr. Max Graves in a handicap match.

At this point, Crowza and Woody Numbers returned to the ring, and introduced the homicidal, suicidal, genocidal legend, Sabu. Sabu’s allegiance to IWA was declared, which brought out Rude Boy, a regular of Juggalo Champions**t Wrestling, who would later face Mad Man Pondo for the JCW title. After a brief dust-up, it was time for intermission.

A replacement match was up next. Ian Rotten, the hardcore legend of ECW and IWA Mid-South fame, has been taken out of action due to a recent skull fracture and could not wrestle (although he did attend the show and was great on the microphone). In his place, former WWE and current NWA TNA star Zach Gowen, the one-legged wonder, stepped in to face Ian’s scheduled opponent, Ashland Kentucky’s The Juggulator. Crowza and Woody Numbers also came to the ring with The Juggulator, and found themselves involved in the match a few times, even hiding Gowen’s prosthetic leg under the ring.

Anytime you see a guy hopping around on one leg in the ring, you know you’re watching something unique, but aside from the novelty, this was a top-notch match, with The Juggulator coming out victorious.

The crowd was disappointed to learn that IWA East Coast Heavyweight Champ Chris Hero was tied up in Europe, but in place of the Hero vs. Kudo championship match, Ruckus defended his CZW Heavyweight title against Kudo in a very fast-paced, action-filled match. Ruckus retained his championship, but both men did fantastic work. Combat Zone Wrestling is one of the top independent federations in the country, and this was a great replacement match. Hopefully we’ll get to see Chris Hero defend his belt against both of these men in the future.

At this point, Crowza and Woody Numbers escorted Sabu to the ring for his match against 2 Tuff Tony. Crowza and Woody were ejected from ringside by Yuki, the Japanese lady ref, and the crowd was treated to an amazing spectacle of a tables match (you win by putting your opponent through a table). The action spilled out of the ring as wrestlers were thrown one way, and chairs were flung the other. Four tables bit the dust before 2 Tuff Tony emerged as the winner.

But the night wasn’t over. Ian Rotten entertained on the mic for several minutes during the next intermission. One lucky fan walked away with a truckload of autographed goodies in a raffle which raised nearly three hundred dollars for hurricane relief. Finally, it was time for the main event.

Mad Man Pondo made his first defense of the JCW Heavyweight Title (which he won a few weeks ago by defeating the legendary Terry Funk at the annual “Gathering of the Juggalos”, the wrestling and music festival held by the Insane Clown Posse). JCW’s Rude Boy and Pondo faced off in a match where each man’s hands were covered with broken beer bottles. The blood flowed freely, but Pondo retained his belt after an intense confrontation.

After the match, Pondo raised Rude Boy’s hand in a show of respect, and as Pondo left, Rude Boy took the mic to return the favor. However, Rude Boy was rudely interrupted by none other than Sabu, who smashed Rude Boy with a steel chair and then hung him from the ropes in a vicious attack.

At this point, the crowd went wild. Violent J, from the Insane Clown Posse, made a surprise rescue and ran Sabu out of the ring. What happened next was even more surprising.

Rude Boy turned on Violent J, and beat on him with a steel chair. This set up the main event for the November 15th IWA East Coast show—Rude Boy vs. Sabu vs. Violent J in a steel cage match, with Shaggy 2 Dope, Violent J’s partner in ICP, as the special ref.

That is going to be an incredible show. ICP has a rabid following, and with the addition of loyal Juggalos (fans of ICP) it’s a sure bet that the South Charleston Community Center will see its biggest crowd, ever.

It was an incredible night, and I’ll be posting more about it later.